Ronan Mullarney and James Sugrue maintained hopes of home success in The 124th Amateur Championship after sealing places in the quarter-finals at Portmarnock in Ireland.
Supported by large numbers of spectators on the renowned links near Dublin, Mullarney and Sugrue claimed two victories apiece on the fourth day of the championship as they seek to become the first Irish winner of The Amateur since Alan Dunbar in 2012.
Mullarney, who won The R&A Foundation Scholars Tournament last year, claimed a 4&3 victory over Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg in the last-32 before the Galway player, 23, finally came through against Englishman Matty Lamb. Mullarney was five up after 11 holes before a superb comeback from Lamb took the match to the 18th green where the Irishman made par for a one-hole victory.
“It’s a feeling of relief, absolutely,” he said. “I was five up and hit it slightly heavy into the par-3 12th and Matty won that hole. He then just kept clawing away and played lovely on the back nine. It was a great match.
“I’ve played in front of good sized crowds before and it was great to see them supporting me. It’s brilliant to have two Irish players in the quarter-finals. There are plenty of matches left to be played and I can’t look too far ahead to the prizes that come for the winner at the end of this championship.”
Sugrue also thrilled the home fans enjoying the morning sunshine by coming back from three down with four to play in his match with Christoffer Palsson, defeating the Swede on the final green. Having lost to Palsson at Royal Aberdeen at the same stage of the championship last year, the one-hole win was especially satisfying for the 22-year-old.
The Mallow member then continued his impressive play in the last-16, seeing off the challenge of Sergio Parriego Cornejo from Spain 5&3.
Sugrue said, “It feels really, really good, especially after this morning after 14 holes. I thought I was going home and there was no way back. To win this morning and do it again this afternoon feels pretty good.
“Christoffer beat me last year so it was nice to come through against him. It’s great to see the fans out there, everyone from Portmarnock coming out to see us. They are great and love their golf here. Hopefully we can show them some more good golf tomorrow. Myself and Ronan are on different sides of the draw so it would be nice to meet in the final.
“I haven’t thought too much about the major opportunities at the end of this week but might do if I can reach the final.”
Sugrue now faces Koen Kouwenaar from the Netherlands in the last eight, a victor over Matthias Schmid 3&2, while Mullarney comes up against Benjamin Jones who continued his fine form after winning an all-England last-16 tie against Bailey Gill 2&1.
Portmarnock, which celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, also continues to be enjoyed by the leading player in the field David Micheluzzi.
The Australian, who sits seventh on the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, fought back from two down at the turn to win three holes in a row from the 14th and emerge victorious in the last-16 against Dane Alexander George Frances 2&1.
Micheluzzi now meets Cameron Sisk from the United States of America, who reached the quarter-finals after surviving a fightback from Vincent Norrman to win at the 20th.
The 22-year-old said, “It was a nice comeback and I’m over the moon. I’ve been down in every match now but it’s not over until it’s over. Fortunately for me, Alexander made a few bogeys in row towards the end and I capitalised by making pars on those tough holes from 14 to 16.
“He was hitting it so good early on and I didn’t know how to compete with him but I showed real tenacity. Early in the week, I wasn’t hitting it great but I’m just starting to feel like I’ve got it now. I stayed really patient and it all clicked. I just want to get past a quarter-final tomorrow and try and push to the final.”
With heavy rain showers over the links in the afternoon, two Scottish players handled the conditions to set up their own last-eight tie tomorrow morning.
Sandy Scott and Euan Walker, both well versed in links golf as members at Nairn and Kilmarnock (Barassie) respectively, held their nerve to edge tight contests. Scott defeated Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra, world-ranked 18th, while Walker went to the 20th to oust Jonatan Jolkkonen.
“It feels really good,” said Scott. “After a long day, to be able to play tomorrow is fantastic. Eugenio is a really strong player. I was all over the place at times in the quarter-final. I was scrambling like mad and I think he got a little frustrated when I was making pars from the rough. I kept doing it and he had good chances that he missed. When I got my chances, I was able to convert them.
“The putter was definitely key. I was holing some putts to halve holes and my wedge game was also strong to stay in it. Playing all these kinds of links shots again, it feels like a few years ago when I was growing up as a junior just playing around Nairn. It’s funny having to play them again but you have some confidence having played them in the past.”
The quarter-finals and the semi-finals take place tomorrow, with the winner in Saturday’s 36-hole final gaining exemptions into The Open at Royal Portrush next month, the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot and, by tradition, an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament.
Entry is free of charge for all spectators at Portmarnock while live scoring, news and video can be followed on The R&A’s website and social media platforms.